Evaluating digital marketing success
In the US, roughly one quarter of the population admits to being online ‘almost constantly’, according to Pew Research. And we’re just as reliant in Australia, where the average number of devices per household that can access the internet climbed to 6.2 last year, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics.
It’s clear the web has become an extension of ourselves, but what about our businesses? Today, if you aren’t using multiple platforms to leverage your offering, you’re undoubtedly missing out, which is why many organisations are upping their digital marketing efforts and committing to more online campaigns than ever before.
But while you’re busy harnessing the power of content marketing, social media, SEO and every other virtual channel, be sure to pause and evaluate how your efforts are paying off. Otherwise, you could be failing to maximise your ROI.
Ready to get started? Here’s our guide to measuring the success of your digital marketing strategy.
But first, what is digital marketing?
Before we dive into evaluating digital marketing success, it’s worth clarifying what we mean by digital marketing in the first place. The term refers to an organisation’s marketing efforts on online channels. For most businesses, that includes things like:
- Social media marketing,
- Content marketing,
- Pay-per-click (PPC),
- Search engine optimisation (SEO),
- Inbound marketing,
- Email marketing,
- Marketing automation.
Within each of these are countless streams, all working together to boost your brand.
Social media marketing
This is the promotion you do on social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube and LinkedIn. Social media marketing is all about driving brand awareness and increasing traffic, although it can be a valid tool for lead generation and sales as well.
There are heaps of social media marketing tactics, including influencer marketing, paid promotion, ephemeral content and more.
Perhaps the most general piece of the digital marketing puzzle is content marketing, which denotes the creation and promotion of online content. Online content includes things like:
- Blog posts,
- Online brochures,
Because the channels are so varied, so too are the opportunities to use content marketing to meet your organisational goals.
With PPC advertising, you pay the publisher every time a user performs a defined conversion such as a click. PPC is common on social media and in search engine marketing (SEM). Channels include:
- Sponsored messages on LinkedIn,
- Paid ads on Facebook,
- Promoted Tweets on Twitter,
- Google AdWords,
A natural extension of content marketing, SEO is all about making your content perform well in search. SEO tactics are extensive and constantly evolving as experts try to keep up with Google’s latest.
Inbound marketing is the ‘big picture’ of digital marketing. An inbound marketing strategy utilises a full suite of marketing tools (including those we’ve just gone over) to attract, engage and win over customers with online content.
If you really want to ensure your message is received, go for email marketing. Email marketing is used when companies want to promote certain content by emailing it directly to users in their database. A typical email marketing campaign might include:
- A monthly newsletter,
- A follow-up message following a download,
- A downloadable asset,
- A welcome email after a website visit,
- Various promotions (ie. discounts or a loyalty program).
Then there’s marketing automation, which refers to the use of software to automate certain aspects of your marketing campaigns. Marketing automation is rising in line with digital marketing as teams work to promote themselves on several platforms. Software might be used to automate tasks such as social media posting, email newsletters and analytics reporting.
So how do I know if it’s working?
As you can see, there are several overlaps in the complex web that is digital marketing. SEO and content marketing, SEM and PPC, email marketing and marketing automation – it all goes together.
And that’s what makes digital marketing so effective – but also so difficult to measure. When you’re examining so many different channels, it can be hard to gauge how well everything is working and which tactics are particularly beneficial to your brand.
You might notice more traffic, for example. And that’s great – but what’s driving it? Is it the content you’ve created? Or the SEO tactics embedded within that content? Or hey, maybe it’s even the way you’ve promoted the content on social media. Identifying the root of your success is difficult to do, but very important.
To this end, businesses must have clear measurement practices in place. If you’re just getting started, begin by mapping your objectives. This is important as it’s nearly impossible to ‘win the internet’, that is outperform your competition in every area. By defining what you want to achieve, you can focus your efforts better and interpret success more clearly.
Make sure you have clear goals for each segment of your digital marketing strategy. The goal of high-value content creation, for example, might be to generate more leads through downloads, whereas your SEO goal is to perform better in search and earn more traffic.
Next, analyse your audience and create buyer personas. Identifying your customer base is another essential step early on in a digital marketing process. With a clear picture of who your target user is and where they hang out, you can focus your campaigns rather than casting a wide (and ineffective) net.
Once these two preliminary steps are sorted, it’s time to evaluate your digital marketing strategy. There are a few ways you can do this.
SERVAS is a methodology developed to analyse digital benchmarks. It stands for:
- Sustainable goal,
You can use SERVAS to evaluate the effectiveness of your digital marketing campaigns. Consider paid promotion on Facebook as an example.
Before beginning a campaign, define a sustainable goal – as described above. Once you’ve gotten started, examine how engaging the campaign has been. How many likes are posts receiving? What other engagement is clear?
Next, examine the relationship aspect. Did the promotion initiate any conversations between you and your customer base? Are there opportunities for new relationships to form?
At the value stage, you’d look at whether or not the promotion is adding value to your business and your customers. Are followers getting any useful information? Are you showing the value of your offering?
Effective marketing campaigns also encourage action. Is there a clear call-to-action in your sponsored posts? What is the preferred conversion and are you seeing it happen regularly?
Finally, gauge the synergy of this particular tactic. Does it weave in well with your overall web presence? How is it alike or different?
Equally important is comparing how your web presence stacks up against the competition.
Performing a competitive analysis is all about uncovering how you measure up next to your top online competitors in the areas of:
- Content – Do they publish more than you? What does their total body of work look like?
- SEO – Where does their content rank in comparison to yours?
- Traffic – Does their site get more visitors than yours?
- Social Media – How do their social accounts compare? Are they seeing more results? More engagement?
- Overall strategy – Does your competition seem to have an overall edge in terms of digital strategy? Are they using tactics you aren’t yet aware of?
Free tools like Alexa, Majestic SEO and Serpstat can help paint a clear – and most of all objective – view of us versus them.
PAY ATTENTION TO KEY METRICS
It’s important to back your SERVAS and competitor analysis with solid data. That’s where analytics reports and measurement tools come into the picture. Without these, you can make assumptions about how your campaigns are performing – but not backed with any certainty.
The metrics that matter most will depend in large part on the goals you’ve defined for each segment of your digital marketing strategy.
If brand awareness was your primary SEO goal, for example, you’ll be looking out for increased organic traffic. If your social media goal was to foster engagement, you’d be tracking things like likes, comments and shares.
Some of the most critical metrics for various digital marketing goals include:
- Total site visits,
- Position in search,
- Number of new visitors versus number of returning visitors.
- Click-through rate,
- Asset downloads,
- Number of returning visitors versus number of new visitors,
- Repeat purchase rate.
- New followers,
- Comments, likes and shares,
- Newsletter sign ups and new subscriptions.
So why bother routinely evaluating your digital marketing efforts?
The answer lies in everything you can gain by taking an objective look at how your business is performing online – as well as everything you’re missing out by failing to do so. When you measure the effectiveness of various campaigns, you can identify areas where you’re seeing strong ROI and the places where you aren’t. This is the information marketers need in order to stop wasting time and start creating the right content.